As any Victorian knows, as the City of Gardens, it also equates to the “city of seasonal allergies”. Unlike many other cities which have a much shorter blooming season, our mild climate is bounty to lush, green, pollen-y misery for many hay fever sufferers. For some, allergy season can start as early as late January depending on weather and what decides to pollinate.
Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is defined as inflammation of the mucus membranes in response to a hypersensitive reaction to pollen or other allergens such as dust, animal dander and other chemical particles. In cold-damp weather, many become sensitive to molds and fungus. Exposure to allergens will result in chemical changes in the body that will result in sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, swelling and inflammation of the nasal passages, and an increase in mucus production. How delightful…anti-histamines are the treatment of choice for most medical doctors, which can cause a variety of side effects including drowsiness, dry mouth & eyes, nosebleeds, etc.
In Chinese Medicine, seasonal allergies are seen as an invasion of external pathogens from the environment, which usually are defined as wind, heat, cold, damp and airborne allergens would also qualify. Allergic reaction, which is characterized by symptoms of redness, itchiness and swelling we would refer to as wind (from the environment) and heat (red, swollen, itchy). Hay fever would indicate that this wind-heat is affecting our lungs, head and respiratory tract. Therefore, to alleviate allergy symptoms, utilize agents that expel wind and cool down the heat. Over-the-counter medications do just so, but kinder alternatives would include these following simple home remedies:
- WIPE YOUR FACE! With all of those spiky, velcro-like pollen particles flying around the air, guaranteed, it will stick to your face, which will eventually travel into your eyes and mucus membranes. This is especially helpful if you’ve been outside for a few hours and also if you have facial hair or wear make-up, which pollen will happily adhere to too.
- Saline flush for sinuses (ie. neti pot) – this helps to flush our excess mucus, allergens/bacteria/viruses and also helps to maintain fluid balance in your sinuses. For instructions, check here.
- Bioactive Quercitin – a highly absorbable anti-oxidant that has been clinically shown to reduce allergy symptoms. *Also helpful for the symptoms of upper respiratory viruses too!
- Stinging nettle tea – this native herb is easily found in most health food/herbal stores. The stinging properties of the herb provides naturally found antihistamine properties.
- Honey bee by-products – bee pollen, propolis, unpasteurized raw honey all help to desensitize your immune system from environmental pollens.
- Staying hydrated – inflammation will occur more easily when you are dehydrated, not to mention drying out your poor nasal passages, making them more irritated. That includes avoiding dehydrating things like alcohol & coffee, oh yes….we’ve seen direct correlation of consumption of said substances and a dramatic increase in allergy symptoms.
Yellow chrysanthemum – easily found any Chinese market, great for itchy, red eyes
Bi Yan Pian (“nose inflammation tablets”) – an awesome drug-free anti-histamine Chinese-style, especially effective for severe or stubborn cases
Yu Ping Feng San (“Jade Screen Tea Pills”) – traditional immune boosting formulation, esp recommended 1-2 months before allergy season
Nim jiom – pear loquat syrup, a honey-based formulation that can soothe dry, itchy throat, congestion and dry cough
Still miserable? A series of acupuncture treatments, especially before the thick of allergy season (for many that is early January) is a simple way to calm your over-active immune system. Acupuncture is known to reduce inflammation in the tissues and instead of in your muscles or joints, with hayfever, its in your respiratory tract. Here are Heart & Hands, we’ve often found even as little as 3-4 poke sessions are often enough to quell the itchy-sneezy-runny misery.
A poke a week keeps the pollen-induced sneezes away. Acupunk’s orders ;)